FMCSA seeks input on hours rewrite

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American Trucking Association’s Truck Tonnage Index, based on surveys of ATA members, increased 1.6 percent to 160.0 in November 2004 from October. Compared to November 2003, the index was up 12 percent. The index was at its third highest level ever in November. Through November, truck tonnage is up 6.5 percent over the same 2003 period.

Freight Transportation Services Index increased 1.1 percent to 127.6 in October from the September level of 126.2, according to the Department of Transportation’s Bureau of Transportation Statistics. The increase was the second consecutive monthly rise following a one-month decline in August. The October 2004 level is 5.9 percent higher than the October 2003 level of 120.5.

Due to higher prices, the trucking industry paid $62 billion for diesel fuel in 2004 – $10 billion more than in 2003, the American Trucking Associations said. The calculation is based on an average retail price in 2004 of $1.81 per gallon, which is 20 percent higher than in 2003. The calculation assumes the same level of fuel consumption as in 2003, or 34.6 billion gallons, even though consumption likely was higher due to greater freight demand.

Accuride Corp., an Evansville, Ind.-based supplier of wheels for heavy- and medium-duty trucks and trailers, is buying Chicago-based Transportation Technologies Industries Inc. Accuride President and CEO Terry Keating will serve as president and CEO of the combined company, which will have about 4,600 employees.

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration last month gave interested parties until March 10 to comment on changes to the hours-of-service regulations. In a notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM) published in the Jan. 24 Federal Register, the agency used the current regulations as the starting point and asked how the rule should be changed to respond to the concerns of a federal appeals court.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit vacated the rules in July of last year because it believed FMCSA had failed to consider the effects of the regulations on driver health as required by the 1995 law that ordered the HOS rulemaking. But the court also expressed concerns over several key aspects of the new rules, which had been in effect since Jan. 4, 2004.

Specifically, the court voiced reservations over the increase in daily driving to 11 hours; continued acceptance of split rest in sleeper berths; the adoption of a new 34-hour restart period for the weekly limits; and the failure to consider mandatory electronic onboard recorders. In late September, Congress acted to hold the current rule in place until Sept. 30, 2005, giving FMCSA time to reconsider the rule. In September, FMCSA issued an advance notice of proposed rulemaking to address the issue of electronic onboard recorders.

In the new NPRM, the agency is seeking information on health issues not considered in the earlier rulemaking, such as any connection between drivers’ hours of service and the impact on health from exposure to noise, vibration and chemical emissions. FMCSA also wants to know whether there has been any increase or reduction in drivers’ sleep deprivation since the current rules kicked in.

The NPRM summarizes each of the principal areas of concern and poses a number of questions for interested parties to answer. One issue on which FMCSA seemed to be signaling change is the use of sleeper berths to split mandatory rest. The agency cited, among other things, the numerous interpretations of the rules it has had to issue, reports that training of drivers and enforcement personnel has been difficult and comments by software vendors that programming systems to consistently calculate compliance has been challenging.

FMCSA said it will consider a variety of possible changes, including:

Not permitting any split sleeper-berth use to count toward the minimum off-duty period; Allowing a continuous sleeper-berth period of less than 10 hours, such as 8 hours, to substitute for the minimum off-duty period; Establishing a minimum time for one of the two “splits,” such as 5 hours, 8 hours or another appropriate level; Revising the manner in which sleeper-berth periods affect the calculation of the 14-consecutive-hour period; and restricting variations on permissible sleeper-berth use to team drivers only.

For a copy of the NPRM, visit this site and search Docket No. 19608.
Avery Vise


Industry fights supporting documents plan
The American Trucking Associations has objected to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s proposal that carriers identify, systematically file and retain for at least six months “any and all” paper documents and electronic data that could be used to verify the accuracy of a driver’s logbook.

In comments filed on a supplemental notice of proposed rulemaking (SNPRM), ATA said that the proposal “does not achieve its fundamental purpose of reasonably specifying the number and type of supporting documents to be used and maintained at reasonable costs by motor carriers and drivers.” Contrary to FMCSA’s assertions, the SNPRM “is neither a minor modification of an existing regulation nor a reasonable extension of the 1998 rulemaking on this same subject, but rather a major and expansive proposed rule,” ATA said.

Specifically, ATA argued that the proposed rule conflicts with the statutory requirements in the Hazardous Materials Transportation Authorization Act of 1994. It falls “significantly short” of the requirements of the Regulatory Flexibility Act and Paperwork Reduction Act. ATA also contended that the regulatory analysis and cost evaluation is lacking and that the proposal represents a significant expansion of recordkeeping responsibilities for motor carriers. As an alternative, ATA recommends carriers be allowed to set up a self-monitoring system using documents and data determined by the carrier and, during a compliance review, measure the effectiveness of the system against a performance benchmark.

For a copy of the SNPRM, visit this site and search Docket No. 3706.


TSA sets fees for hazmat checks
The total fee for the Transportation Security Administration’s new fingerprint-based criminal background checks for hazardous materials endorsements will be $94, provided that states use the Transportation Security Administration’s contractor to collect fingerprints and to conduct the FBI records check. If states choose to make their own arrangements, the total cost could be higher or lower. Assuming no last minute postponements, fingerprint-based checks were to take effect Jan. 31 for drivers seeking new hazmat endorsements. Checks are to begin May 31 on hazmat endorsements as they come up for renewal.

In a final rule issued last month, TSA set the levels for three components of the total fee based on the assumption that the process was run by a TSA agent. The charge for collection of fingerprints is $38. TSA’s threat assessment fee is $34 and the fee for the FBI check is $22. In addition to varying fees for fingerprint collections, states can tack on $2 more if they process the FBI check instead of TSA’s agent doing so. For a copy of the final rule, visit http://dms.dot.gov/search and search Docket No. 19605.

Meanwhile, the American Trucking Associations has asked TSA to reconsider its entire plan for implementing a fingerprint-based background check. In an appeal filed in late December, ATA said the industry’s “concerns have been ignored, and TSA has acted arbitrarily and capriciously in proceeding forward with a decentralized, fingerprint-based background check system that will impose higher than necessary costs, leaves open a security loophole and has a disproportionate adverse impact upon small businesses.”

ATA argued that the requirements of the Patriot Act may be fulfilled using a name-based background check system, which is already in place. The association is calling for a centralized system for collecting information and asked TSA to establish a formal mechanism for notifying carriers when a driver’s endorsement has been revoked. For a copy of ATA’s appeal, visit this site and search Docket No. 14610.


CCJ Equipment Demand Index: Texas shows its strength

VANS
March ’04 ’03 ’02
Illinois 1 1 1
Ohio 2 2 2
Texas 3 4 3
Tennesee 4 3 4
Georgia 5 5 5
Indiana 6 6 9
N Carolina 7 9 8
Wisconsin 8 8 7
Misouri 9 7 6
S Carolina 10 16 13
Kentucky 11 11 14
Alabama 12 17 12
California 13 10 10
New York 14 12 16
Michigan 15 14 18
FLATS
March ’04 ’03 ’02
Ohio 1 2 2
Texas 2 3 1
Illinois 3 1 4
Georgia 4 7 6
Alabama 5 6 5
Arkansas 6 4 3
Indiana 7 5 10
Tennesee 8 9 8
S Carolina 9 12 7
N Carolina 10 10 9
Misisippi 11 17 12
Michigan 12 8 16
Kentucky 13 11 15
Virginia 14 14 11
Misouri 15 13 14
REEFERS
March ’04 ’03 ’02
Texas 1 2 1
California 2 3 5
Wisconsin 3 8 8
Georgia 4 4 3
Illinois 5 5 2
Ohio 6 6 6
Florida 7 10 9
Arkansas 8 12 13
New York 9 13 17
Misouri 10 7 11
Minnesota 11 16 23
Tennesee 12 15 16
Arizona 13 1 26
Oregon 14 9 4
Washington 15 11 7

In March, Texas likely will be the richest source of spot-market freight for carriers operating refrigerated equipment, according to the CCJ Equipment Demand Index. In March 2004, Texas was the No. 1 state for refrigerated equipment searches among TransCore customers, and the Lone Star State typically ranks high in March reefer demand. California was a distant second with 45 percent fewer reefer searches. Texas also placed second to Ohio in flatbed demand with just 6 percent fewer searches. Illinois and Ohio were practically tied for highest demand for dry vans with Ohio generating a mere 2 percent fewer searches.

The index, based on equipment searches performed by TransCore customers, shows the top 15 states in terms of demand for trucks in the spot market in the three most common equipment types: dry vans, flatbeds and refrigerated units. The index is intended to help fleet operators identify the most promising opportunities for backhaul and other spot-market freight in the month after its publication.